FUZI: Pitside Chatter
GAYLORD, Mich. — While behind the wheel of his No. 80 Traxxas Pro 2WD Chevy Silverado, Mike Oberg is one of the toughest and most versatile drivers the sport of off-road racing has ever seen, but off the track the Eagle River, Wis., native is well known for his ever-ready smile and love for the sport that he has been part of for nearly two decades.
Growing up in a town famous for ice racing, Oberg’s racing career started without a roll cage.
“My twin brother Martin and I used to oval track ice race 4-stroke ATV’s, but it was always so cold and wintertime when we were racing,” Oberg explained. “A buddy of mine was off-road racing in the buggy class so we went out to watch him and thought, ‘Wow! That looks like a lot of fun and a lot safer too because there’s not a chance of getting thrown off and then run over,’ if you get run over in a buggy at least there’s a cage, so we both got into buggy racing. I stayed in the buggies for three years and then moved into the Stock Truck class. From there I moved to Sportsman 2WD and then in 2006 we moved to Pro 2 in order to get my sponsors more TV exposure.”
Exposure is something Oberg certainly does not lack. With 40 career victories including at least one in each of the divisions he has competed in (Light Buggy, Sportsman Stock, Sportsman 2, Pro 2, and Pro 4) Oberg has definitely made a name for himself in the sport. Add to that three National Championships and the current status of being the only driver in history to win the World Cup at Crandon (Wis.) four times, each in a different division and you can see a very successful racing career.
Oberg has had many great seasons behind the wheel, but to-date the best was Mike’s first year in Pro 2WD. In that 2006 season Oberg captured the World Cup at Crandon, nearly won the National Title (missing by a mere two points), and found victory at the Jason Baldwin Memorial Cup at Chula Vista, Calif.
“The memorial race was just after Jason had passed away in an airplane crash. Baldwin was a Pro 4 driver who was a really great guy so it was really nice to win that inaugural race out there.”
For the past 16 seasons, Oberg has sported the red, white, and blue trademark colors of AMSOIL, a logo he has worn with pride and gratitude.
Throughout the week Oberg owns and operates Mikes Septic Service of Eagle River (Wis.), a company that has grown to service commercial and residential customers throughout nine counties spanning two states, but because of the support of his great sponsors Mike has been able to live out his dream on weekends.
“I try to do the best I can to represent them well because with their help we have been able to go and do the things as a team that we want to do and it has been great,” he says. “I am so fortunate to have the sponsors I have. It has been a great career so far and hopefully it continues to be that way for a little while yet.”
Even when he’s not behind the wheel of the No. 80, Oberg is often seeking an adrenaline rush, he and son Spencer enjoy riding dirt bikes together, and Mike also enjoys off-trail snowmobile riding in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and mountain riding out in Wyoming.
Throughout the winter the family also enjoys hockey and just spending time together. “I have great kids and we definitely keep busy. I just enjoy doing as much as I possibly can with my family.”
Nineteen years after first strapping in, racing is still a family sport for the Obergs.
Martin still competes in the Pro Light division, while Mike’s oldest daughter Heather, his grandson Kenny (age 5) and grand-daughter Karsen (10 months) can be found across pit lane in the Team Traxxas camp with Heather’s husband.
When not in college Mike’s daughter Alicia (age 20) rarely misses a race while 15-year-old Spencer is part of the No.80 crew, and hoping one day to pilot the truck.
For Oberg, off-road racing is much more than a hobby, more than a sport, it is truly about family and camaraderie.
“There are so many families here at these events, it’s wonderful,” he explained. “The pits are open so whole families can stop by. We sign autographs and sell T-shirts and just have a great time with everybody. I can remember having a kid stop by one day to get my autograph and he had a hero card from every year he had watched me race and that is what it’s all about… It’s just a great atmosphere.”